UConn Ran Right Over Illinois

Illinois was in the game, giving defending champion UConn all it could handle. When guard Marcus Domask made a jumper to tie the game at 23-23, it looked like we were in for a dogfight with a spot in the Final Four on the line. Then, in the blink of an eye, the Huskies flipped a switch and found themselves up by 30 en route to a 77-52 win. It was another reminder that Dan Hurley’s team is built differently.

After Domask’s basket, UConn closed out the first half with five straight points and led 28-23 at the break. The Huskies emerged from the locker room on fire. They outscored Illinois 25-0 to open the half, pushing their run to 30 straight points. Illinois didn’t score again until the 12:39 mark. In real time, the Illini went roughly 50 minutes between baskets. It was absolutely stunning.

UConn did it on both ends of the floor. The Huskies cut, moved and shared the ball, and center Donovan Clingan controlled the game, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Cam Spencer also had an excellent performance. The Rutgers transfer buzzed around making plays and finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. Defensively, UConn held Illinois to .722 points per possession, a figure that increased as UConn took its foot off the gas late. As a team, the Illini shot 25.4 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from three-point range. Just to point out how astonishing that is, Illinois entered the Elite Eight ranked second nationally in offensive efficiency.

Hurley’s team is an absolute machine steamrolling everything in its path in this tournament. UConn’s average margin of victory through four games is 27.8 points. That’s a staggering figure that shows just how dominant the Huskies have been. They have yet to find themselves in a close contest, and have now won 10 consecutive NCAA tournament games by double digits.

It is truly astonishing how good this UConn team is, especially after the program sent three of its best players to NBA last year. Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. were key to the Huskies’ national title team in 2023. They all moved on to the next level and somehow Hurley’s team is better in 2024.

UConn is playing head and shoulders above than anyone in the country right now. Frankly, Hurley’s bunch has played better than everyone all season. The Huskies are, and have been, in a class by themselves. Now they’re back in the Final Four to defend their title.

Other teams have tried and failed to win back-to-back titles since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007. These Huskies are different. They’re built for this.

Ryan Phillips is a senior writer at The Big Lead.

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